THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#6): Five Mini Reviews


Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but every once in a while one comes along that catches my eye – especially one that sounds like a combination of Heathers and The Craft. I wasn’t wowed by the book, though it was a quirky read, with some fun parts and sad moments too. With such an interesting premise – a novice witch raising a gang of zombie girls from the dead to solve their murders – I was hoping for a little more. I’m bummed that the mystery got lost in a lot of the stereotypical high school drama and caricatures (which slowed down the plot for me). Good book, not great. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for providing me a review copy.


Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CLOSE TO HOME was part contemporary domestic thriller and part police procedural, though probably too heavy on the investigation side for my liking. DI Adam Fawley is the main investigator, though it flipped back and forth between him and other detectives. I felt like it didn’t matter which detective did what, as they needed more personality or back story to grab my attention. The mystery of the missing girl was intriguing and had plenty of twists. The big reveal at the end was great but kind of out there. This book has gotten lots of great reviews, though for some reason I had a hard time really getting into it. Not bad, but didn’t wow. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for a review copy.


Blackwater Lake
Blackwater Lake by Maggie James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read of 2018! What secrets are hidden at Blackwater Lake? I was very impressed with this novella. Though short in length, the book’s characters and plot were well developed. Great mystery/suspense, and a freebie from B&N too. Would love to read more from Maggie James.


A Stranger in the House
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, you can’t love them all. Almost DNF’d this book at 33%, but decided to skim the rest just to see where it went. The premise was certainly intriguing, but the slow pace, implausible situations, and wooden characters turned me off. I’d maybe give this book 1.5 stars? I thought her first book, The Couple Next Door, was entertaining, suspenseful, and fun, but unfortunately A Stranger in the House didn’t work for me.


Tin Man
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, dreamy almost, and heartbreaking subject matter. Nevertheless, I’m in the minority as I didn’t love this book. It lacked a strong plot and felt disjointed, and I also felt like I was observing these characters from a distance instead of being a part of their stories. In the end it seems like I missed something in Tin Man that everyone else easily found.


“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” – Alan Bennett

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#2): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Audiobook) / Don’t Let Go / The Night Mark


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. It turned out to be so much more than I was expecting. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO tells the amazing, wild, and often heartbreaking life story of the title character. Beginning in the 1950s when she arrived in Hollywood, the book covers Evelyn Hugo’s rise to fame as an A-list actress, and her many loves and losses along the way. She chooses a young journalist named Monique Grant to write her biography, and Monique is perplexed as to why Evelyn wants to spill her long-guarded secrets to her. What, if any, is their connection? I listened to the audiobook which was a wonderful experience and quite emotional too. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I was sobbing as I was mowing the lawn. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2017.


Don't Let Go
Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second book by Harlan Coben I’ve read, and second book by Harlan Coben I’ve really enjoyed! In DON’T LET GO, Detective Nap Dumas finally gets a lead in the disappearance case of his high school girlfriend — well, it’s his own case as no one else is looking. Maura went missing 15 years ago on the same night his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were killed, supposedly hit by a train. Nap’s always wondered if there was more to the story, and of course, if Maura’s disappearance was somehow related. Now a clue from a crime scene in another town sets his investigation in motion again. DON’T LET GO is page-turning suspense with a complex mystery and relatable characters. I especially loved Nap’s sarcastic wit.


The Night Mark
The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. THE NIGHT MARK is a unique time-travel romance set on the gorgeous coast of South Carolina. In present day, Faye Barlow feels lost, still grieving the death of her husband four years prior. During her latest photography job, she discovers an abandoned lighthouse at a place called Bride Island. She feels an inexplicable connection to the lighthouse, and in a strange twist of fate, she’s sent back to 1921 where the keeper is very much alive and very familiar. I thought the writing was beautiful, and the descriptions of the lighthouse and island were magical. While I loved the premise, ultimately I had a hard time connecting with Faye and feeling the chemistry in her new time-travel relationship. Their set up was a bit too odd for me. The character who stood out to me most was the priest — honestly I’d love to read his life story.


“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” ― Vera Nazarian

IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE by Leah Weiss


Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★


He’s gonna be sorry he ever messed with me and Loretta Lynn.

Sadie Blue has been a wife for fifteen days. That’s long enough to know she should have never hitched herself to Roy Tupkin, even with the baby.

Sadie is desperate to make her own mark on the world, but in remote Appalachia, a ticket out of town is hard to come by, and hope often gets stomped out. When a stranger sweeps into Baines Creek and knocks things off kilter, Sadie finds herself with an unexpected lifeline…if she can just figure out how to use it.

This intimate insight into a fiercely proud, tenacious community unfolds through the voices of the forgotten folks of Baines Creek. With a colorful cast of characters that each contribute a new perspective, IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is a debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.


A 1970s Appalachian mountain town is brought to life through the alternating first-person voices of Leah Weiss’ characters. Several different people speak about the happenings in Baines Creek, North Carolina, though the common thread throughout most of the book is Sadie Blue, a pregnant teenage bride in an abusive marriage.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought the writing was beautiful, and I especially enjoyed the folksy dialect of the characters. The lives of Baines Creek’s locals are hard and heartbreaking, and it was easy to empathize with them. What I didn’t like was the incomplete feeling I have after finishing. We’re introduced to several characters whose stories are left up in the air. Even with Sadie Blue’s story, there wasn’t a strong, cohesive plot linking everything together.

IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is Leah Weiss’ debut novel, and she already has a talent for drawing readers in with her intriguing characterizations. Looking forward to seeing where she goes next.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER by Karen Dionne


Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★★★★


Praised by Lee Child and Karin Slaughter, and sure to thrill fans of The Girl on the Train and The Widow, The Marsh King’s Daughter is mesmerizing psychological suspense, the story of a woman who must risk everything to hunt down the dangerous man who shaped her past and threatens to steal her future: her father.

At last, Helena Pelletier has the life she deserves. A loving husband, two beautiful daughters, a business that fills her days. Then she catches an emergency news announcement and realizes she was a fool to think she could ever leave her worst days behind her.

Helena has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. No electricity, no heat, no running water, not a single human beyond the three of them. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature — fishing, tracking, hunting. And despite her father’s odd temperament and sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too…until she learned precisely how savage a person he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marshland he knows better than anyone else in the world. The police commence a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King— because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.


Wow, wow, wow. I was riveted by this book, completely glued to the pages! THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER was more than just gripping psychological suspense; it was also a compelling blend of literary fiction and unique coming of age story.

This book tells the unusual life story of Helena Pelletier. She’s a wife, mother, and small business owner, but at one time her life was very strange, and growing up she didn’t realize it. The father whom she adored was actually a monster, a cruel psychopath who kidnapped her mother when she was a teenager. The three of them lived in an isolated cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, completely cutoff from the rest of the world, until Helena was twelve years old. Now, after spending many years in prison, her father has escaped, and the only person cunning and skilled enough to track such as man is Helena herself.

Helena’s story alternates between the present as she hunts for her father, and the past when they lived alone in the marshlands. Moving between the two time periods bumped up the suspense. I was equally fascinated by both! As the reader, you already know that Helena will be separated from her father, but how? What was their life like before she knew the truth? What was it like for Helena to join the “real world,” and eventually be compelled to hunt him after his escape? My need for these answers made this a read-in-one-sitting situation!

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER is a beautifully written book and a nail-biter at the same time. I loved it. Helena, her mother, and their haunting story will stick with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

ALL THE BEST PEOPLE by Sonja Yoerg


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken…

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.


ALL THE BEST PEOPLE is a family drama spanning three generations, from the 1920s to the 1970s. Does mental illness run in the family? When Carole starts hearing voices, she fears that she will meet the same fate as her mother, Solange: being locked away for decades in a mental institution. Carole shrinks from her family at the time when her daughter Alison needs her most: adolescence.

Overall, I thought this book was beautifully written, and the author handles the subject of mental illness realistically and with compassion. I was really drawn in by Part One of the story, focusing on Carole and Alison in 1972. With Carole’s point of view, the reader gets a strong sense of her fear and confusion as the disease takes hold of her mind.

I wasn’t as engaged in Part Two, which was Solange’s story of her marriage to Carole’s father. It’s a story of class, rich versus poor, and social injustice. The pacing was slower, and to me it felt a bit disjointed from the other part. Another POV came from Janine, Carole’s younger sister, who was an awful, unlikable character, and honestly her part didn’t do much to advance the story.

I wish there had been more magic or magical realism that the blurb alluded to, so the book was a bit different than what I was expecting. Still, it was a touching and heartbreaking story about how one family faced its history of mental illness.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.